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Police protests impacting law enforcement recruiting in the Tennessee Valley

Published: Jun. 15, 2020 at 10:21 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Several law enforcement agencies across the Tennessee Valley say shootings across the county, including the deaths in Atlanta and Minneapolis, are impacting their recruiting efforts.

Officers with the Huntsville Police Department say they haven’t seen their recruiting numbers go down.

Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office says not only is recruitment down, one deputy turned in his badge.

“We are short one corrections deputy. In fact he told me the other day he’s retiring a little early because of this. He thinks the attitude towards any law-enforcement is so bad, he’s ready to get out of it. We lost one good man, because of that,” said Harnen.

He’s referring to worldwide protests over the past few weeks, fueled by videos of law enforcement using deadly or excessive force.

“Every cop that I’ve talk to understands that what happened in Minneapolis was a tragedy, and it should not have happened. That being said, I don’t think all of us should be accountable for the misdoings of one, two, or three people,” said Harnen.

But the violence from more than 100 miles away is being felt in the Tennessee Valley.

“Recruitment is difficult, it’s a job that everybody used to think would be an amazing job. We’re not seen those people applying anymore because just the tone across the nation right now is that law-enforcement aren’t good people,” said Hollywood Police Chief Jason Hepler.

Hollywood isn’t the only department having an issue finding good, qualified people to wear the badge and carry a gun.

“We are having less people apply for jobs now. The quality of the people we’re getting, is not as good as it was a year or so ago,” said Harnen.

Deputies and officers say during the past couple weeks while tensions have been high, not everyone’s opinions have been negative.

“There are people that still appreciate us and we love them. We appreciate their gratitude more than they can ever imagine. Just today, I was at the gas station, I grabbed a hamburger, a bag of chips and a drink. The man in front of me, paid for my food, just to thank me for the job that I do,” said Hepler.

A couple of months ago, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, WAFF interviewed officers and deputies at other departments and they said recruitment was going well.

They chalked that up to the job security since law enforcement is an essential job during a pandemic.

Now some agencies in the Tennessee Valley say that’s no longer the case.

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